MORE than 50,000 infants developed kidney stones and four others died in China (as of September 23) after consuming baby food tainted with melamine, a chemical banned in food items. Reports of contamination emerged on September 10, when 14 babies in Gansu province fell ill. Soon, more reports started coming from other provinces. Five cases were reported in Hong Kong as well. According to the Chinese state television, Sanlu Group, the country’s leading dairy company, had received complaints in December 2007. But no action was taken. The contamination was first detected in a powdered baby formula, manufactured by Sanlu Group. Later, milk and milk products by China Mengniu Dairy Co, Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Co and Bright Dairy group were also found to be contaminated. According to Chinese news agency Xinhua, two people were arrested in Hebei provincial capital of Shijiazhuang on charges of adding melamine to milk sold to the Sanlu Group. Melamine was added to “increase the protein content”. China has recalled all the tainted items and ordered checks on dairy products. The authorities have sacked the vice-secretary of Shijiazhuang Municipal Committee of Communist Party of China and former board chairperson and general manager of Sanlu Group. A few government officials have also been fired. Several Asian countries have either banned or recalled all Chinese milk products. While Malaysia, Singapore, Tanzania and Goban have banned the milk imports, a dairy company in Japan, following Hong Kong, pulled them from supermarket shelves. Fonterra, New Zealand’s biggest dairy company, knew about milk poisoning but withheld the information for six weeks. It holds 43 per cent shares in Sanlu. The company claims its directors were first told of the poisoned infant formula on August 2, but could not persuade Sanlu and local officials to make a public recall. Ã”Ã»Ã¡
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